Turbocharging 2024: A Perspective from the New Kid on the Board

Turbocharging 2024: A Perspective from the New Kid on the Board
Eric Vescera Director of Payments Inspire Brands
Mar 7, 2024

I have had the honor of being engaged with the MAG through many different job titles… merchant member, SIG leader, Committee co-chair, MAG staff member, and now Board Member. Through all those titles and phases of my own professional life, what I have learned about payments can be directly tied back to the experiences, connections, people, formal and informal conversations, and education that I’ve received through engagement with the MAG organization.

So now as I sit here as the new kid on the block and newest board member, what am I looking forward to the most? A lot, as it turns out. 

  • Education will never be finished.
    • Education is never just one medium of information sharing. Education is the quick conversation in the hall before a session starts with a merchant peer (“The spring release has already been published? I need to talk to my acquirer!”). The industry-leading sessions that make up the bulk of a conference agenda (“It’s so interesting to hear what’s happening in Washington on payments policy that could affect my business – I had no idea this was going on”). Education is attending a webinar and learning something you didn’t know before (“I didn’t realize integrity fees were something I could have some control over!”).
    • What I am most excited about with the future of the MAG is working directly with my own team on not only their current job challenges but also their development plans and identifying what education gaps exist that I can then funnel into the MAG as something merchants are looking for. It’s not just Merchant Payments 101 – which is a fundamental program that even tenured payments professionals will get something out of – but the fact that the industry will never cease changing… so the need for education is paramount. As a board member, I have the privilege of engaging in discussions about what the future of payments education looks like and ensuring it fulfills a need for where payments is headed. I’ve been told that if I didn’t go into the business world, I should have been a teacher – and this helps me experience multiple passions of mine all at once.
  • The MAG organization has never been more primed for future growth.
    • What an incredible time to start helping to shape the direction of such a fast-moving organization. The excitement is almost tangible when in brainstorming sessions talking about the strategy projects that are being prioritized and led by an incredible staff.
      • Conference Rebranding – In September 2023, the MAG announced the official rebranding of its bi-annual events – Payments MAGnified taking the place of February’s Mid-Year Conference and the MAG Payments Conference replacing the Annual Conference in September. The team has developed an amazing program for differentiating the two events and focusing more on opportunities for merchants to collaborate more often throughout the course of the event.
      • International – The MAG has slowly and but carefully expanded its reach beyond the U.S. border. As many more payments teams find themselves responsible for supporting payments on a global scale, the MAG’s focus has been giving merchants around the world a voice and a platform for driving positive change in the payments industry that serves merchants’ interests. I have found my own responsibilities slowly creeping onto the global scale, and I am so excited to work with the MAG to build that international community of merchants so we can all collaborate on shared challenges around the world.
      • Regional Events – In 2023, the MAG began hosting smaller regional events in areas where merchants are most concentrated. The smaller group sessions in a SIG-like format have proven to be very successful and allows merchants who cannot travel as often or don’t have as large of a team to participate. I was able to bring my entire team to one of these events and they found it extremely helpful and educational. The MAG has plans to expand this in 2024 – and I’m excited to work with my own team to help maximize the success of these and spread the MAG name to even more merchants.
  • Driving the direction of the MAG.
    • As I mentioned, it has never been a more critical, exciting, or energized time to be a part of what the MAG is doing. I am honored to have been chosen to sit on the Board of Directors alongside the industry’s finest to help drive forward the most important merchant priorities.
    • The MAG’s voice continues to strengthen in the industry and in Washington on topics such as the Credit Card Competition Act, the proposed changes to the debit pricing cap, and merchants’ overall rights with processing payments and managing their own customer experiences. Engaging in these topics helps me better educate our internal team and its potential impacts across our portfolio of brands.

To me, being a MAG Board member isn’t simply a volunteer activity – it comes with a great amount of responsibility. Not only are you advocating for your own company’s interests and managing relationships across the industry, but you also must stay engaged and attuned to challenges experienced by other merchants to represent them and guide the priorities of the MAG organization effectively. To me, this is one of the most exciting parts of stepping into these shoes, and I don’t take that challenge lightly. So, thank you to all our MAG merchants for entrusting me to represent your interests fairly and allowing me to fight on your behalf for an improved and more equitable payments industry.

The Merchant Advisory Group

Driving positive change and innovation in the payments industry that serves the merchants interest through collaboration, education, and advocacy.